Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Key Components of Asthma Education



Pathophysiology of Asthma


  • Normal, controlled asthma, and uncontrolled asthma




Medications and Device Technique

  • Inhaler device technique


  • Mechanisms of action and rationale for medications
  • Indications for when to use reliever versus controller medications
  • Side effects


  • The importance of taking medications as prescribed


  • What is asthma control?
  • Signs and symptoms of controlled and uncontrolled asthma
  • Symptom monitoring
  • PEF technique and monitoring (if applicable)
  • Monitoring asthma control
  • Recognizing loss of asthma control (assessed through symptoms or PEF or both)
  • Trigger exposure monitoring
  • Use of an asthma diaryG to monitor asthma control by recording symptoms and PEF

Action Plans


An asthma action plan is developed in partnership with the person with asthma. It is an individualized written, electronic, and/or pictorial plan developed for the purpose of self-management of asthma. The plan guides self-monitoring of asthma based on symptoms, reliever use, and perhaps peak flow measurements, and details the management steps to take according to asthma control. The action plan is tailored to the person’s preferences, treatment, and usual pattern of exacerbations, and may incorporate triggers.


  • What is an action plan?
  • How to use the action plan
  • Steps to take when asthma is uncontrolled  (e.g., medications to add or increase, and when and how to seek additional medical help)


Trigger Identification and Management


  • Identification of triggers, and strategies that can be used to reduce or avoid trigger exposure, including workplace exposures and triggers


Smoking Cessation (if applicable)


  • Information regarding the higher risk, for smokers, of having inadequately controlled asthma
  • Educate that the person will likely require more medication to control his asthma than if he did not smoke


Compiled by the RNAO expert panel, 2016.


Sources: Boulet et al., 2015; BTS/SIGN, 2014; Goeman et al., 2013; GINA, 2015; NIH, 2007; and RNAO, 2004a, 2007a.


Chronic Disease
Adult Asthma Care Guidelines for Nurses: Promoting Control of Asthma
Point of Care Resources